These oven-fried eggplant sticks were inspired by the deep-fried versions served at Galatoire's restaurant in New Orleans. FYI: "oven-fried" is a fancy word for "baked," if you really love crispy and don't mind frying, see the fried version instead.
At Galatoire's these lovelies are served with powdered sugar for dipping or sprinkling. Sound odd? It may be, but it's also delicious. It's a good reminder that in earlier days vegetables of all sorts, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas were commonly sweetened when served. A dash or two of Tabasco sauce isn't out of order here either.
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 2 globe eggplants
- 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- In a large bowl dissolve 2 tablespoons of the salt in 1 cup warm water. Add 2 quarts (8 cups) cold water. Set aside.
- Trim the eggplants and cut them into ½-inch thick, 3- to 4-inch long sticks. Some people find eggplant skin difficult to digest; you can remove and discard the peel, if you like. Put the sticks in the salt water, use a pot lid or an upside-down plate to submerge them and keep them under the water (they will want to float), and let them sit 30 minutes. (Why are you doing this? It's called brining, and it magically helps eggplant hold its shape when you cook it.)
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, plus the pepper and cayenne, if you like. Add the oil and use your fingers to work the oil into the breadcrumb mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large plate or shallow bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk the eggs to break them up completely; seriously whisk them, you don't want any blobs of egg white in there. When you lift the whisk up it should be as lifting it out of water.
- Preheat an oven to 425F. Liberally oil a large baking sheet (or use a nonstick one).
- Drain and thoroughly dry the eggplant sticks by patting them with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
- Keeping one hand dry and one hand wet, dip an eggplant stick in the eggs, lift in out and shake off any excess egg, put the stick in the breadcrumb mixture and coat the eggplant stick completely, lift it out and shake off any excess bread crumbs, transfer the stick to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining sticks.
- Bake the eggplant, turning once, until browned, crispy, and tender to the bite, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.
You can keep them warm in a 220F oven, but they really are best if served and eaten right away.